Deadly GM switch may spell demise of ignition keys

Push-button now an option on most cars.
By Jeff Green and Jeff Plungis, Bloomberg News Published: April 30, 2014
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GM’s faulty key ignition is fairly typical of the flaws cataloged by NHTSA over the years. The key could be inadvertently jarred by a knee, uneven road or weighed down by a heavy key chain. GM is under investigation because it waited more than a decade to recall the affected cars.

The recalled Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models don’t in fact top the list of ignition-related complaints in the NHTSA database. That distinction goes to Ford’s Focus, which garnered more than 2,000 complaints about keys getting stuck or not turning, primarily in models from 2000 to 2005. Because Ford decided the flaw didn’t imperil drivers, the company declined to recall the cars and instead alerted dealers to the problem so they could fix it.

“There was no safety risk, as this could only occur when the car was parked and the driver shut off the engine and tried to remove the key,” Kelli Felker, a Ford spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Automakers have recalled about 21 million vehicles for issues related to the keyed ignition switch, including more than 8.8 million from Ford, 5.5 million from GM, 3.5 million from Honda and 1.6 million from Chrysler and its predecessors.